Hanukkah

bestbrisketI’ve tried many brisket recipes and this has become a longtime favorite. The method comes from a Cooks Illustrated recipe that requires a few hours of unattended cooking, as well as advance preparation. After cooking, the brisket must stand overnight in the braising liquid that later becomes the sauce; this helps to keep the brisket moist and flavorful.

Defatting the sauce is essential. If the fat has congealed into a layer on top of the sauce, it can be easily removed while cold. Sometimes, however, fragments of solid fat are dispersed throughout the sauce; in this case, the sauce should be skimmed of fat after reheating.

If you prefer a spicy sauce, increase the amount of cayenne to 1/4 teaspoon. You will need 18-inch-wide heavy-duty foil for this recipe. If you own an electric knife, it will make easy work of slicing the cold brisket. You may substitute matzo meal or potato starch for the flour in this recipe.

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hanukkahstamp.jpgTruthfully, Hanukkah makes me anxious. It’s one of those performance things. Not about making crispy incredible latkes or the homemade applesauce or the chorus of songs after the blessings. No, it’s the presents. Giving exactly the right gift meant you know exactly what the kid needs. A mom’s job, right? Um... Know who they are and you know what they want? Right? Um... Could we call it generalized mother present anxiety syndrome? Hanukah really ups the ante on the whole thing. I mean, Christmas, ok, one day. If you blow it – well, sayonara until next year, baby. But, Hanukah! Eight days! Every night! Really? I mean, who thought of that? Not the Maccabees when they decided they’d had enough of the Greeks.

I raise my hand in admission of guilt. You see, my husband and I disagreed over giving gifts. Him against me. How can you not give gifts to little kids? All those latke and Hanukah gelt (Hanukah chocolate coins) turned up at the lights, wishing for a little present just like the Playstation (I’m dated, I know) his friend, Avi, got last year. I won the argument. Over gifts. Kind of like winning a ticket to do all the dishes all the time.

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mollygoldberg.jpg I was recently given a gift of an out of print cookbook called The Molly Goldberg Cookbook.  When I first saw it I was amused and when I opened it up, I immediately saw a cabbage recipe I wanted to make. Score! Here was a cookbook that had that “Through The Looking Glass” aspect to it. These were recipes long forgotten, mysterious in their 1950-ness, soon to be resurrected by me!

I had a faint notion of who Molly Goldberg was; however, despite the constant ‘jokes’ in my house about my age I was actually too young to have seen The Goldbergs on TV. It still amazes me that I saw Amos n’ Andy. The premise of this prototype for all subsequent sit-coms was the lives of Jewish immigrants, usually featuring a solvable family or friend-related problem.  Molly, in her infinite “Jewish Mama” wisdom would involve herself in these neighborhood and family dramas dispensing invaluable advice. 

Upon closer inspection of the book, three things struck me.  One, the book was arranged almost like a ‘wraparound’.  That’s a reference to a strip show on TV that had interstitials.  Molly had her ‘bits’ that introduced the story behind some of the recipes. These bits represented a microcosm of cultural idioms and the social challenges and changes that arose from the Diaspora.  The other thing I noticed was that many of the recipes were ‘from hunger’.  An expression meaning, well, lacking in taste or desirability.  The third thing, which reminded me of something my dad said about brisket:  that it killed more Jews than bullets.  Some of the recipes were so BAD for you, its no wonder high cholesterol and constipation plagued my people.  

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kugel.killerI don’t make a lot of kugels.  I don’t make them because my kids don’t really eat them and as much as I want to eat the whole tray, it would take me a month to work off the calories.  My grandma used to make them all the time.  What I loved most about her kugels were the left overs.  

The following day, for breakfast, she would cut off a slice, put some butter in a saute pan and literally pan fry the slice of kugel.  Like the kugel really  needs anymore butter than it already has.  Yet, it is a childhood memory that is rests comfortably on my tastes buds.

My sister-in-law, Tammy is the official kugel creator in our family.  She makes them all time and her 3 kids devour it.  Tonight, my kids experienced kugel for one of the first times (in the past, they  have turned their noses up at it).  They are kugel converts. This kugel would make anyone a convert!

I am guilty of eating seconds.  It is that good!

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homecoming-picture-1.jpgMy husband is on active duty in the US Army, and for our first holiday season together we were living in a little town called Sierra Vista, Arizona, which is adjacent to Fort Huachuca, where he was stationed.  Since we had only been married since the previous January and we were just starting our life together, we couldn’t afford to go home to our beloved California and our families for the holidays, so we were toughing it out in Sierra Vista alone. 

Being Jewish, no holiday season was complete for me without my mom’s fabulous potato latkes, and by Christmas Day (which also happened to be the last night of Hanukkah), I was feeling pretty down at the prospect of the holiday season passing without them.  My husband, wanting to make me happy, suggested that we make them for Christmas dinner.  Since he is Christian and had never had potato latkes before, I thought this would be a wonderful way to introduce him to a delicious new food and also to merge our holiday customs and traditions together, setting a precedent for the years of holidays to come.  I enthusiastically agreed.

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